How to better support ‘green living’?

How can people in the U.S. be better supported in living a sustainable lifestyle? That’s the question STBY recently tried to answer during a project with the Reach Network commissioned by Panasonic. Any company developing products for the ‘Eco Aware’ has to first gain an understanding of the lifestyles such consumers need. The plurality of approaches and attitudes that invariably exist towards sustainable living complicates the matter of how people react to green products. Exploring these differences allows companies to develop products that more effectively support people’s efforts to live their lives in an environmentally conscious way.

With this in mind, Panasonic asked STBY to design an ethnographic research project that would deliver inspiring insights into sustainable living in the U.S. The approach we took was to create a series of design documentaries, thus providing an empathic link to those people trying to live in a sustainable manner. By visiting a number of such people in their home, we were able to create videos that communicated a range of intimate insights into their lives and opinions, telling their stories in a way that could both inform and inspire.

To add structure to these stories, we worked with Panasonic to develop a number of cultural probes that could be used during our home visits. These prompted the participants into asking questions about what aspects of their lifestyle could be better supported by new products and services, thus throwing more light onto the areas of their lives where innovation was most needed.

A series of workshops held with Panasonic and the Stanford University Design Research Lab meanwhile allowed us to help the company integrate these insights into their concepting processes. One of the main goals for the project was to create research materials with long-term applications – to ensure that the insights we captured could be used and re-used, time and again. This understanding of consumers’ practices and motivations could in addition be applied to the work of a wide range of internal departments at Panasonic, from design teams to business model developers.

Working with our Reach partner, Portigal Consulting, allowed us to conduct this project in San Francisco at relatively short notice, and with no logistic difficulties. This project once again demonstrated the strengths of both the design documentary format, and the Reach network itself; combining the two allows us to quickly and effectively communicate empathic insights from almost anywhere in the world.

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